I made my move into the city on Wednesday, and in considerably less dramatic a fashion as anyone expected, but then I want the anticipation to build up. I want people antsy to see me there. An enemy that doesn’t see you coming may be vulnerable, but so is one that knows you’re out there with no way of knowing when and where you’ll appear. Guards can only remain tense and on guard for so long before it gets to them. It isn’t merely psychological, something that can be overridden by having an alien controlling a person by joystick. It’s physiological.
The human body is capable of amazing things even without superpowers, but it does so with the aid of drugs like adrenaline and dopamine while tearing the body apart. Doesn’t sound much better than a druggy killing himself for a fix, right? A very accurate analogy in a way. That same fix that lets a mom lift a car off her child or slow time for a soldier to react can eat away at a person, tearing them apart. In the former case, quite quickly; the latter takes a toll over time, though.
And if anyone thinks I’ll have any sympathy for them, I’ll point out now that I went and waded through the sewers. Yeah, the city has quite a few of them, and anyone in disbelief that they’d allow a person in power armor to maneuver around freely should remember that they maintain routes for maintenance workers. It’s more than enough for one person to go alone, with or without a sword given to them by an old man.
I’d have brought more, but it occurred to me after a moments’ thought that alien mind control would probably make such workers more dutiful and watchful. So I just kinda snuck through all invisible, like Shinobi la Pew. When I reached the end, I took out a stick of deodorant and ran it along the undersides of my armor before pushing open a manhole and making for the rear elevator on the rear of Double Cross Tower. It had always been a good way for me to sneak up to the penthouse or to the hidden bunker I had put together under the place. This time, I went down.
The elevator got a very negative reaction. As soon as the door opened, giant stingers shot through the air and stuck into the metal rear of the elevator. I thought they’d stop at an even dozen, but they went with seventeen of the things before stopping. Then someone tossed in a single brown loafer as an afterthought. After a tense moment, I heard someone say, “Sorry, it’s all I had.”
I, on the other hand, lowered myself down through the top access hatch of the elevator so that anyone down there could recognize my upside-down head. “Hiya, folks! Miss me?” I made a show of turning to look over my shoulder where some of the stingers still quivered from being shot. “I guess so.”
“Is that Psycho Gecko, the notorious supervillain?” asked Festus, standing with one shoe in the middle of a horde of Buzzkills. The Buzzkills were bee people. They looked humanoid, but had black and yellow exoskeletons with fuzz sticking out in tufts and in place of human hair. They tended to keep their wings folded up on their backs unless needed, and looked out at the world with bulbous, segmented eyes. They also liked to use swords made out of giant stingers, much like the ones they carried then.
“Hi Festus,” I said to my former head of Human Resources. It kinda surprised me to see the young, shaky college grad still around. “Any of the other department heads make it?”
“Um…actually, good question. I don’t know.” He hunched up and gave a cautious shrug. In the distance, it sounded like someone had finished boiling up some tea. The sound gradually came to my attention, but now I couldn’t keep from hearing it.
“That’s ok. More surprised you did, though it’s a pleasant surprise in general to see the Buzzkills here. You guys ok?”
They stood down and waved at me, giving mumbling answers that showed they didn’t think I really cared, except for one overly enthusiastic one that jumped up and down. “I’m great! It’s wonderful to see you again. Just wait until we tell the queen!”
I motioned with my hand in a downward-shooing motion. “Maybe get her some downers first before you do that. Sleeping pills, heroin, something to level her out a bit. She’s always been a bit excitable.”
Before the overly-cheerful Buzzkill could answer, a larger Buzzkill flung her aside. The giant one ran over and wrapped her arms around me, lifting me in a great bearhug and shaking me about so much that I almost got whiplash from the experience. After about five seconds of this, I realized that the sound I’d mistaken for a tea kettle was the elongated squee of the Buzzkill queen who held me captive in her embrace. Beetrice was large and in charge of the Buzzkills, but she also had a very odd mind about me. Almost childlike, one might say, except for the bit about wanting my sperm so she could use it to create a huge army of Buzzkills.
Thing is, I’m not really ready for kids. It’d be nothing but running around, crapping on things, flinging food all over people, stomping around after not getting something, breaking toys, followed by staying up late, sneaking out, drinking, and trying to get laid. And I can’t have kids interrupting that schedule of mine.
As quickly as Beetrice had swept me up into a massive hug, she set me back down quickly enough that I stumbled back and lost my balance. “You stink, Male Drone Gecko!” the queen declared.
I held out my arms imploringly. “It’s not what it smells like, honey bee. I was just delivering that package to Mrs. Creature From The Black Lagoon and she invited me in for some hot coffee. That’s all, I swear.”
Beetrice cocked her head to the side, trying to figure the statement out, rubbing her mandibles together. She’s got kind of a weird mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I’d try it before I knocked it. I mean, couldn’t be any weirder than kissing a mouth, once you think about it. Readers, just take a look in a mirror someday, really take a look, and think about what a strange animal you are physically.
While I might consider kissing a bee woman, I wasn’t doing it at the time. Instead, I stood up. “I had to come through the sewers to get here without risking being spotted.”
“Why didn’t you come through the hive?” asked Beetrice.
“I…didn’t know there was a hive that I could come through?” I answered, indeed framing it like a question.
Beetrice responded by grabbing me and carrying me under her arm over to a side wall well away from the elevator. There, they’d opened several large holes into what was supposed to have been layers of concrete and lead. I shook my head. “After I went through all the trouble of putting this together, you go and mess up the wall. I thought y’all are bees, anyway? You get a bit antsy waiting for my return?”
Beetrice’s reflexes were too slow to catch the pun as it went over her head. “We needed a way out nobody would watch, so I pulled up the pornography you left on the ginormous screen television and got to work! There are holes that lead out all over the city, but mostly to parks. Some go to the edge of the barrier, even.”
“Hmm…I might be able to use those to get my people back in. But you say you learned all this from porn? I didn’t think such an education in drilling would prove so useful…”
“Let me show you!” Beetrice exclaimed, trying her best to snap my head as she turned and bounded for the giant computer setup I left down there. When she got close, she yelled at it, “Computer, play file Beetrice Favorite Number Six.”
Did I leave that thing with a voice command system? I couldn’t remember, especially as little as I ever used voice commands. Horrible idea for power armor, I know that. One stumble and you go form launching a rocket to lunching a cock, if the computer can even understand what’s being said.
But enough about cocks. I had porn to watch. Which, incidentally, opened with “Flight of the Bumblebees,” before showing a title card that introduced it as a nature documentary about insects of North America. If I had to guess, Beetrice liked the discussion of bee mating. I didn’t get to watch that far along because, barely two minutes after she decided we would watch it, some sort of alert came up in one corner of the screen.
“Just ignore that, it happens sometimes,” Beetrice told me, segmented eyes locked on the screen. I squirmed out of her grip, landing on my belly and face, then picked myself up to punch a button on the keyboard. Instantly, the screen split in half between the documentary and a scene elsewhere in the city. There, caught on traffic camera, a cat woman fought off a crowd of civilians who crowded around her like a zombie movie.
Wildflower. I kinda left her here. I don’t know exactly who she is, but neither is she. She was a victim of this one laboratory I bought up after a city takeover by a horror villain ruined their experiments. Somehow, she lost her memory and gained powers that involve being a weird hybrid of various animals and plants. The tail looked like something that’d be perched above any feline’s behind, except for the thorns that grew out of it. Being a hero, I first knew her to be a nuisance. Then, in the process of imprisoning her and manipulating her psychologically, we developed some feelings toward each other. It’d make a good romance novel someday. And since she and I were both physical females at the time, they could even call it “Fifty Shades of Gay”.
She didn’t look so good. She fought like a crazy person, an unusual description for her. Claws rent faces and superhuman strength sent bodies flying. In the end, she fled, looking incredibly tattered and torn. It surprised me that she’d made it this far. If she really had. “Has that been happening often?” I asked Beetrice, pointing to those events.
“Hm? Oh, yeah!” The thought of Wildflower getting mauled either excited her, or Beetrice really needed those sleeping pills. “Every now and then, when nothing good is on, it shows her fighting people. She just keeps fighting and fighting them, ever since the day you told us to hide.”
The view where Wildflower fought before disappeared. “Because I set up a recognition program to spy on certain people. I don’t see Venus, though…” Indeed, nothing popped up for a few seconds until another camera alerted me to Wildflower stopping and resting in a neglected patch of green on a street corner. Bushes and trees had been left wild, perhaps less important to the running of the city than the sewers were to the new alien overlords in town.
“You never went and brought her?” I asked Beetrice.
She just shrugged.
A part of me felt mad. Huh. I turned and looked as Wildflower held her arms close to her body. I knew she couldn’t be that cold, given her increased body temperature. It’s why she wears skimpy outfits. She was hurt in many ways.
And, most importantly, I knew she was mine. I’m not sure if I knew that before I left the city, because I’d forgotten it in the meantime. Caught up in my sha-, er, my personal contemplations when I left, and then the rush of an ingeniously insane plan soon afterward. Absence made the heart forgetful. But I wanted her back.
“Beetrice, I need you to send out some very fast scouts to meet up with a crowd of supers and other riffraff. I’ll let them know you’re coming. I want you to prepare an isolated hive hole to collapse. Preferably one you don’t use much that’s on the far side of the city from this.” I followed the order up by bringing up a map of the city that showed a ping centered around the location of the camera currently showing my Wildflower.
Beetrice stepped close to the screen, rubbing at her chin, then pointed to the north. I shook my head when she turned to say something. “Sorry,” I stopped her query before it began, “I need it somewhere to the south. That’s where they’ll be. They need to draw enough attention getting to the hole that fewer people will be around her. And then we collapse the hole so they can’t follow. They won’t be able to figure out where it goes, right?”
Beetrice nodded. “Oh yes, we filled in holes before. Lots of times. They don’t like us.”
I reached up to pat her on the head, until the distance necessitated jumping to do so. “There, there. I like you, and this is important to me, ok?”
She nearly gave herself whiplash nodding this time. “Can I ask why?”
I brought up the camera footage of Wildflower huddled in a small pseudo-park. “Because I need to get her back.”
Sunset threatened the city with darkness by the time I set out into it again. The Buzzkills and Mix N’Max were both ready to play their roles, linking up and distracting the city. I wanted to bring them all in quietly, up until I saw Wildflower.
I put her out of my head so easily while away from this place, it surprised me to realize I still felt she was important. I knew it was contradictory and stupid and no way to plan a personal vendetta against a race of alien goo monsters, but I also knew that I wanted her back and I wanted to make them suffer for what they did to my Wildflower.
I wanted to snap the necks of so many of these meat puppets as I passed invisible among them from the location of the nearest hive hole to a good jumping-off point, but restrained myself in case a sudden death alerted their controllers to a disturbance in an unusual place. Instead, I lept into the air and bounded along rooftops until I found the small area of green. It was really more like a pizza slice of green where two streets met and formed a V shape.The overgrown bushes and trio of small trees formed a decent barrier unless anyone decided they needed to look there, something which most passerby no longer had the initiative for.
I waited until all had passed the area by. Wildflower’s face peeked out, checking to see if the coast was clear. I reappeared right in front of her, making her jump back for a moment, then pounce on me. Unlike any number of animals she got that instinct from, she didn’t try to shred me with tooth and claw. Not immediately, at least. She kept the claws ready, though, sizing me up even while her legs wrapped around my waist to hold her against me.
I reached up, released the seals on my helmet, and pulled it off. “Hey there, Tigerlily.” I figured my face and use of my pet name for her would disarm the situation.
She grabbed my cheeks hard enough to cut lines into the skin and looked me in the eyes. “They taunted me about you. They said you left me to die.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “I’ve done alright without you.”
Here, I had two options. Option A, I lie to her, claim the aliens are lying bastards, and shove my tongue down her throat. Option B, I tell her the truth, get calling a lying bastard, and she tries to shove her foot up my ass.
“They would say something like all that,” I answered. “I got back as soon as I could get here again. And maybe you don’t need my rescuing, but nobody hurts my Wildflower.” Commence the tongue shoving!
I mean, come on, folks, every good relationship is built on some tiny white lies, whether it’s a person claiming they’re looking for stability without drama, or wanting a little more excitement in their life, not wanting kids, or having abandoned the other person to save their own life from an alien invasion. That’s just how relationships work, and anyone unprepared to deal with that is really too naive for one.
Reunited, I cloaked her in a hologram disguise as best I could for us to make our way back to the safety of the bunker.
We made it as far as the nearest hotel’s uppermost rooms, where we broke in quietly…then broke in loudly.